Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bright Eyes Review

Bright Eyes, Somerville Theatre, February 28, 2007
March 2, 2007 11:46:28 AM


Conor Oberst, lead man of Bright Eyes, took up playing shows at the age of 12, and he still looks like one of his young audience members, wearing black jeans, long stringy hair, and a pair of vegan boots, but at 27 he's become the definitive emo/folk rocker. And he's come a long way from being an introverted solitary performer with an acoustic guitar. On Wednesday night, he and a diverse band played for a packed Somerville Theatre with talented, raspy-voiced opener M. Ward. With Ward joining the band after intermission, they played sets marked by Bright Eyes' eclectic sound — seductively poetic story-telling songs with raw guitar licks and country charm.

Oberst was backed by a mix of multi-instrumentalists. At one point drummer Janet Weiss (of Sleater-Kinney) took up the ukulele while Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott swapped their guitars for keyboards, violins, and even a French horn. The set was a mix that included everything from M. Ward songs to pieces from 2002's Lifted to the forthcoming Casadaga (Saddle Creek, due April 10). And the surprisingly effusive Oberst kept encouraging the audience to applaud "my beautiful band."

He ignored frequent yells by girls confessing their love for him and focused on more important things: "How's the Big Dig — you still digging?" What happened to the sad eyed emo boy from Omaha? Instead, he danced, gave the guitar techs a hard time, then made up for it with a hug, and closed his set by passing his band mates' microphones to the audience for a sing-along of "la-la-la's" during "Laura Laurent." During their half-hour encore, Oberst squealed that the audience made him feel like Dolly Parton and declared his nostalgia for the Somerville, a venue he has performed at frequently since 2001. By the end of the encore, feedback and chaos reigned. Another difference from the old Bright Eyes.

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